Long reads


Travelling slowly opens up new perspectives

Photo: Leena Kela

One of the key operating models of the Saari Residence’s ecological activities is to provide the option of slow travel instead of air travel and other forms of travel that increase carbon dioxide emissions. What should we take into account when travelling by land and sea? Why choose a slower way of travel over flying?

Artists applying for a residency at the Saari Residence have had the opportunity to also apply for support for slow travel since 2019. The purpose of this support is to provide applicants with the opportunity to explore low-emission ways to travel and to cut the carbon emissions resulting from their journey. Although the business trips of Kone Foundation’s entire staff, who run the Saari Residence, account for only a small share of the Foundation’s total carbon footprint, it is also essential to look at the sustainability of their business travel. Leena Kela, Residency Director of the Saari Residence, and Jaana Eskola, Coordinator of Ecological Residence Activities, attended a meeting of the international network of art residencies, held at the Cove Park residency centre in Scotland in connection with the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

From Finland to Scotland by land and sea

We set out on Friday the 29th of October 2021 from the Port of Turku, travelling on the Viking Grace ferry to Stockholm and continuing by train from there through Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Belgium all the way to Scotland. The method of travel with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions available from Finland to Stockholm is either a propeller aircraft or a passenger ferry powered by liquified natural gas (LNG). The Viking Grace ferry, which is fuelled by LNG, is one of the lowest-emission means of travel from Finland to Stockholm, according to current knowledge. Our itinerary was a common route to Europe and from there to Britain: Turku–Stockholm–Copenhagen–Hamburg. From Hamburg, we continued to Brussels where we took the Eurostar train to London and on to Glasgow. As our journey coincided with the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, British trains were already almost fully booked when we were ready to book our tickets. As a result, we couldn’t take the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to Glasgow as originally planned, which would have saved us half a day in travel time. Because the sleeper train tickets were sold out, we ended up staying two nights in a hotel, one in Hamburg and one in London, from where we took the morning train to Glasgow for the last leg of the journey.

Find most sustainable means of travel by reading, researching, and comparing

If you want to avoid flying when travelling to or from Finland, there are three main routes: via Stockholm, Tallinn or Saint Petersburg. Travelling via Stockholm or Tallinn means taking a car ferry, and you can reach Helsinki directly from Saint Petersburg by the Allegro train.

The Finnish website Maata pitkin, which is designed to help you plan a more environmentally friendly journey is a useful tool when planning your journey.

There has been a great deal of debate over the past few months about the unintentional methane emissions of LNG-powered ferries which have generally been perceived as environmentally friendly. In addition, numerous comparisons have been published in recent years about whether the most sustainable way to travel from Finland to Stockholm is by propeller aircraft or by sea. You can read more about it (in Finnish) by clicking the links at the end of this text. Among the options available, a ferry powered by LNG can still be considered a sustainable option, which is why we based our route planning on Viking Grace’s timetable.

Study timetables well and book your trip in good time

When the ferry arrives in StocWhen the ferry arrives in Stockholm in the morning, you have plenty of time to eat breakfast in the centre of the city before getting on the train to Copenhagen via Malmö. There are more than 10 trains from Stockholm to Copenhagen per day (, and you can comfortably spend the 5.5 hour journey working. The next change of trains will take place in Copenhagen, where you will have time for a late lunch if you plan your schedule well. The journey will then continue by train all the way to Hamburg, where you will arrive in the evening. Due to COP26 taking place in Glasgow during the same week in November, the best-timed trains were already full and since we were late to make the bookings (just over a week before the trip), we had to opt for a slow train with several short stops from Copenhagen to Hamburg. It’s best to book tickets well ahead, not only because of lower prices, but also to minimise the need to change trains. On slower trains, the numerous stops and short intervals between train changes can easily cause a domino effect, as well as stress about missing your next train. When you book your tickets in good time, you can make sure you have a seat on a direct or one-stop train and get to your destination on time.

Photo: Leena Kela

Due to our late arrival in Hamburg, we didn’t get to explore the city much, spending only one night in a hotel and enjoying a generous German hotel breakfast before getting on the morning train via Cologne to Brussels, which departed at 7:30 in the morning. We had lunch outside the Cologne Cathedral, and after a couple of long days sitting on the train, standing in the fresh air felt good.

Arriving in Brussels brought us face to face with border formalities for the first came during our journey. The Eurostar check-in was a little like an airport check-in, though the train journey itself was as quick and comfortable as the other trains had been.

Schedule your trip carefully

When planning a trip, it’s a good idea to leave some room for enjoying the travel and for unexpected delays, if at all possible, to avoid getting too stressed. After two long days on the train, a longer night off in London was just what we needed, and we had time to look around for the best vegan restaurants in Camden and rest before the seminar and symposium of the next day.

We recommend booking all train tickets through Europe at, which ensures you are entitled to compensation if there are any delayed trains. Deutsche Bahn’s DB Navigator app is also very handy and well worth downloading to your phone before your trip. You can download all the train tickets you have bought via Deutsche Bahn onto the DB Navigator app, which will display your itineraries, the times of train changes and the correct departure platforms. In addition, the app will show you the train schedules in real time and warn you about any delays.

It’s best to buy train tickets in advance to ensure you get a seat on the best routes at the best prices. Contrary to popular belief, train travel is not always expensive. An experienced traveller booking tickets in good time ahead knows how to choose the best connections at affordable prices, which makes train travel not only comfortable, but also ecologically sustainable and affordable in comparison to flying. The hours spent on a train can be effective working time and, along with looking at the scenery, work is the best way to pass the time while travelling. Please note, however, that the WiFi connection on trains is not always reliable, and it is wise to download enough material onto your laptop in advance to allow you to work offline. On the whole, train travel is easy and relaxing and – in my opinion – can be much less stressful than air travel.

The differences between means of travel are more than just carbon emissions

We returned from Scotland to Finland by plane because we had to get back quickly due to family reasons. The return journey by air made forced us to compare and reflect on the differences between different ways of travel. Instead of three days, the return trip took 12 hours door to door. A direct flight from Edinburgh to Helsinki produces 398.6 kg of CO2 emissions, compared to the trip out on a ferry and train, which accounted for 296.4 CO2 kg (calculated using The difference in carbon dioxide emissions is 102.2 kg.

The most significant difference between flying and slow travel lies in the deepest essence of travel: when travelling by train, your body moves and travels with the miles, the scenery changes and you experience the journey in a more concrete way as you voyage through the landscape. The queues for airport security checks and check-ins can be stressful compared to train travel. I think the best thing about train travel is the fact that, at a railway station, you can walk into the right carriage, sit down and the journey begins. Getting to an airport, queueing for check-in, luggage scans and the detailed security checks and squeezing into a cramped plane can be stressful and will take hours at best.

Train travel is not only an environmental choice but a highly recommendable means of reframing your attitude towards travel, its necessity and time itself. International co-operation and travelling by land are not mutually exclusive, but making ecological sustainability a priority inevitably forces us to eliminate what’s unnecessary, slow down and learn new ways to get together and travel. Kone Foundation’s grant for slow travel is designed to serve this purpose and provide for new discoveries. Try something new, slow down and experience more!

Saari Residence encourages residents to try slow travel

In late 2021, two artists from different parts of Europe travelled to the Saari Residence. The grant for slow travel is designed to make a more sustainable way of travel possible, as well as allowing you to slowly transition from your own everyday life to working at the residence already during the journey. In addition to a more environmentally friendly way of travel, slow travel provides a different experience compared to flying, because it gives you the opportunity to see much more on the journey than just airport terminals and airport transfers.

You can apply for a grant for slow travel at the same time as applying for the general residency grant at the Saari Residence. Those selected as residents who travel to Finland from abroad can receive support for travel expenses and accommodation, as well as a work grant for journeys lasting more than a week.

Travelling by bus with the family from Poland to Mynämäki

Krystyna Jedrzejewska-Szmek, who worked at the Saari Residence from November to December 2021, had decided years ago with her family to reduce air travel to a minimum for environmental reasons. The slow travel grant offered by Kone Foundation was originally one of the reasons why she decided to apply for the residence. Although the grant for slow travel is only awarded to residents, the rest of Krystyna’s family also wanted to travel slowly. Since the family had a 6-year-old child in tow, the preferred and easiest option for them would have been to travel by train across Europe with Interrail passes but, in the end, they chose a 17-hour direct bus service from Warsaw to Tallinn which left Warsaw in the afternoon and arrived in Tallinn at 11 a.m. the next day. They spent a few nights in Tallinn and then took a train to Turku via Helsinki, making the last lap to Mietoinen by bus. The long bus journey with a child went well, thanks to their foresight to pack enough snacks, a blanket for sleeping and lots of things to do during the trip.

Advocate for slow travel

Joshua Le Gallienne from Britain worked at the Saari Residence at the same time as Krystyna, and Saari Residence’s ecological residence activities and the grant for slow travel were big incentives for their application. Joshua had also chosen slow travel in connection with their previous artistic projects, as travelling by land is their preferred method. They have decided to travel by air only if there is no other option.

Planning the journey took a long time because they had to look up the timetables for each stopover on the website of the transport company in question and they were often only available in the language of that country. It took three to four working days to coordinate the timetables for the whole trip, and the most difficult part turned out to be finding connections from Lübeck to the Travemünde terminal and from the Port of Helsinki in Vuosaari to the railway station in the city centre.

There is a clear need for compiling ready-made travel plans and links to facilitate the planning of slow travel and helping our residency artists to choose the most ecologically sustainable means and routes of travel something we aim to do at the Saari Residence in future. We also recommend you check out the HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme’s tips for travelling ecologically here.

COVID-19 and travel

Since its start in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has reduced travel and also imposed different kinds of restrictions and requirements on travellers both in terms of the journey and entry into a new country. Joshua found it difficult to find information on what kind of entry requirements different countries had, and Brexit brought its own challenges too.

For these reasons, Joshua took one day to travel to Germany by ferry, starting from Brighton in the morning, changing trains quickly across Europe and arriving in Lübeck at 3 a.m. Thanks to direct changes of trains, they had the status of a transit passenger for the entire journey to Finland, which made travelling during the coronavirus pandemic easier. (A transit passenger is a person who has departed from a country that is considered high-risk but arrives in Finland via a safe country.) Eventually, the Finnlines ferry from Lübeck to Helsinki was the most relaxed and comfortable part of the trip, and Joshua spent the 27 hours onboard comfortably reading, taking a sauna and eating at the buffet, which also caters for vegans.

Joshua says that the Saari Residence’s grant for slow travel was the best incentive possible for them. Slow travel is often more expensive than flying, and the financial support allows artists to travel in a more environmentally friendly way. Such examples of making travel by land possible should be more common to encourage other institutions to make the change too.

Links for comparing CO2 emissions in different forms of travel (in Finnish):

Article by Veli-Matti Lahti from Sitra on the carbon dioxide emissions of passenger ferries and aircraft between Helsinki and Stockholm (23 July 2018):

The carbon dioxide emissions of different means of transport between Helsinki and Stockholm (2 March 2018):

Helsingin Sanomat article on the methane emissions of passenger ferries powered by LNG (5 November 2021): (behind a paywall)

Article on slow travel:

An article by Saari Residence alumnus Rob La Frenais about slow travel to the residence: